If the Halls Could Talk
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It would have been a funny April Fool’s joke, but it wasn’t one. In the days that followed Spring Break, students came to school and saw the classic murals of FHN — Norm the Knight, Knights on Top of the World, even the victory chant — replaced by bare walls and a thick coat of gold paint.
Let’s be honest for a second. The murals were not in pristine condition nor were they anything to marvel at. They were a mix of colors and clubs, years and memories, students and sponsors. Some were decades old and some were starting to show their age.
Painting over damaged or aged murals is not a wild decision. But, painting over them all at once and only consulting club sponsors without student input was a mistake. There should have been warning and time for photos to be taken so the murals could be preserved digitally, if nothing else. FHN is usually excellent at incorporating student opinion in its decision making which is why it was so surprising to see the murals vanish without notice.
FHN is not an art museum or exhibit hall. This is a place where real learning happens in the surrounding of people who vary as much as the colors of the rainbow. Students often have very little in common except for the fact that they walk these halls every day for four years. The artwork on the walls conveyed this theme of diversity and variety while also providing unity. The fact that students just like us walked these halls years ago, found their place and left a visual record of their time here meant something more than aesthetic value. Just as much as the students who fill the halls make FHN what it is, these paintings allowed graduates to keep influencing FHN’s culture long after they left. The murals couldn’t have stayed around forever, but the updating of this artwork should have been gradual, with student input and with a clear plan in place of what would replace them.
There’s no use dwelling on murals that have already been painted over, though. The paint can’t be peeled back; after all, we are worried about building appearance here. It’s time to figure out what’s next for the hallways of FHN. Student expression should be a strong constant which means creativity needs to return to these walls.
First, a foundation needs to be developed. Students, administrators, and club sponsors should meet to decide on basic guidelines for new murals: what colors should be used, how large murals should be, what content is acceptable and what consistent themes should be evident in each mural. Next, rather than having students from each of the clubs paint their own murals, the clubs should work with art teachers and students to develop a plan for the mural, then art students should paint the murals. We have extremely talented instructors and students in the art department of this school — if we want the murals to be creative and appealing, leave it to the people who are skilled and may enjoy this kind of task. Notice that the art hallway murals were left untouched.
A key part of this plan should be some kind of cohesive, unifying concept in the paintings. For better or worse, we have a somewhat blank slate. Rather than replacing the old murals with more club murals that will also become outdated, the murals should instead focus on representing some of the core values at FHN — diversity, acceptance, individualism, respect. This could even coordinate with Students for FHN’s initiatives to encourage happiness and inclusion in the school environment. Basically, instead of obscure murals with vague ties to high school at all (we’re looking at you, Garden of Secrecy lawn gnome mural), there should be some kind of thoughtful, painted representation that portrays FHN’s mission and vision. Maybe walking the halls of FHN should be something like an art museum, with creative, professional art painted on the walls that invokes contemplation and emotion, rather than basic images representing a specific group that will soon graduate.
In order to preserve the culture of the clubs and sports at FHN, there can be more temporary methods used, such as photographs, framed artwork and display cases.
It’s a shame we lost our old murals all at once without notice, but let’s make this an opportunity to make something that won’t be painted over in years to come.